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Benghazi and the Difference It Makes

Former Secretary of State and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton spent most of Thursday testifying to a House committee investigating the the tragic deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans at a far-flung consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and by the end of it her handling of the matter was revealed as even more incompetent, dishonest, and thoroughly despicable than was previously known. Still, one can’t help forlornly accepting Clinton’s infamous argument that “What difference, at this point, does it make?”
What was previously known was damning enough, after all. Even by Election Day way back in ’12 it had been established that at Clinton’s urging the administration of President Barack Obama had bombed an odious but defanged dictator out of power in Libya and thus ushered in an power vacuum where various Islamist terror groups thrived, then ignored repeated pleas for more security by the unfortunate men and women who were sent into the resulting anarchy to serve the government, that when the long foreseen terrorist attack at last occurred they lied to the American public that it was the entirely unpredictable result of a spontaneous demonstration sparked by the local populace’s understandable outrage over an obscure YouTube video critical of Islam rather than a well-planned attack by the terrorist gangs that were assuredly being routed, then had the filmmaker imprisoned on a parole violation for exercising his First Amendment rights and assured the United Nations that “the future must not belong to those slander the prophet of Islam,” and withheld information from government and press investigators to cover it all up. None of this prevented Obama’s re-election, and even the resulting scandal about Clinton’s use of a private and unsecured and most likely illegal e-mail server in apparent attempt to keep further embarrassing facts away from public scrutiny hasn’t changed the media perception that she’s still the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.
For reasons they cannot adequately explain to us, all of our Democratic friends are quite insouciant about the whole affair. Had it happened during a Republican administration we expect they’d share some at least some of our outrage about it, but in this case they find all sorts of excuses. None seem at all upset that we bombed some Middle Eastern dictator out of power, even though he’d verifiably surrendered all his weapons of mass destruction after the invasion of Iraq and posed no immediate threat to America’s national security, and even though they take a much dimmer view of such actions during Republican administrations. A columnist for a recently-defunct local “alternative paper” blamed the deaths on the daredevil recklessness of the ambassador, despite the repeated pleas for more security, and his readers seemed to accept that a Secretary of State should be doing whatever Clinton doing at the time to deal with such minor matters as the security arrangements for some remote consulate. That she blamed it on a spontaneous demonstration against some obscure and easily targeted filmmaker in order to help her administration’s re-election doesn’t seem to trouble a Democrats’ conscience, either, as they can ascribe any Republican criticism to rank political partisanship and their otherwise steadfast commitment to the most irreligious sorts of free speech ends short of any slander against the prophet of Islam. As for the highly irregular e-mail arrangement that now figures it in the scandal, even the only credible challenger to Clinton’s presumptive Democratic nomination says to great applause that he’s sick of hearing about it.
Pretty much everyone that’s not a true believer in the Democratic faith has already concluded that Clinton is incompetent, dishonest, and thoroughly despicable, too, so there seems little to be gained from another day’s further confirmation of what has so long been obvious. At this point, though, we appreciate even the most futile gesture.
The day’s testimony might not hurt Clinton’s electoral chances, but it can’t possibly help. Committee chairman and South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy was able to get in some digs about how longtime Clinton family consigliere Sid Blumenthal, better known as “Sid Vicious,” who had some economic interest in toppling Libya’s odious but defanged dictatorship, was among the few people who had knowledge of Clinton’s irregular e-mail account while the ambassador in Libya did not. Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan was able to cite some hard-attained e-mails from staff who were appalled that Clinton and other administration officials were peddling a false tale about spontaneous demonstrations against obscure YouTube videos, as well as an e-mail to her daughter admitting that it was well-planned terror attack, and to establish that the lie started with her. Our very own Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo was able to establish that there were at least 600 requests from Benghazi for enhanced security, which forced the embarrassing response that “One of the great attributes that Chris Stevens had was a really good sense of humor. And I just see him smiling as he types this.”
That eerie moment will go mostly unnoticed by the public, and no hardened opinions will be altered by it, but we’re nonetheless glad it happened. There’s something to be said for establishing a factual historical record, no matter how inconsequential it might prove in the short term, and certainly that ambassador and those three other dead Americans deserve that. The unfolding facts can’t help Clinton, either, and there’s something to be said for that as well.

— Bud Norman

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Yakking on the Obamaphone

We’ve just mailed yet another check to a phone company for a month’s worth of service, and we’re feeling rather foolish about it. It’s not just that the phone rarely rings around here, and when it does it’s usually some annoying stranger trying to sell us something we have no use for, but because we’ve recently learned that we could have been conducting our occasional telecommunications on an Obamaphone at somebody else’s expense.

This amazing money-saving tip came to us through the miracle of YouTube, where an intrepid independent journalist has posted a short video of a protestor in Cleveland urging her fellow Americans to “keep Obama in president, you know” because “he give us a phone.” The woman, a very nasty piece of work to our thinking, screeches this information with a frightening ferocity, then further explains that “everybody in Cleveland [inaudible] minority got Obamaphone” and that “you sign up if you on food stamps, you on Social Security, you got no income, you disability.” She also adds, with a pithiness rarely heard in contemporary American politics, that “Romney? He sucks, bad.”

The video has “gone viral,” as the internet lingo would have it, with more than two-and-a-half million views, while millions more have heard the audio on various talk radio shows and at conservative web sites. Reaction has mostly been outraged, but we expect that most of the callers and commenters have been the people picking up the tab rather than the ones getting free phone service. Because the former group outnumbers the latter, at least for now, the Obamaphone could pose a political problem for its eponymous president.

Someone at the Obama campaign certainly seems to think so. If you had gone to the government’s obamaphone.net web site the day before the video was posted you would have been greeted with a picture of a smiling Barack Obama making the thumb-and-pinky-out hand-to-the-ear “call me” gesture to such adoring fans as the one featured in the YouTube video, but the day after the posting it was abruptly changed to plain text and now features an oddly incongruous photograph of some Japanese lanterns or a Chinese chess set. They’re still stuck with the self-imposed “Obamaphone” moniker, though, and the tricky business of explaining to the taxpayers of America why they’re footing the bill for this horrible woman’s cell phone service.

The administration’s many defenders in the media have bravely attempted to argue that the Obamaphone program has its roots in legislation dating back to the Reagan era, which is true, but it didn’t start paying for cell phones until the Clinton era and has seen its budget increased from $772 million to $1.6 billion during the Obama era. Those hearty defenders also contend that the program isn’t paid for by taxes, only a surcharge that actual bill-paying phone customers are required by law to pitch in with their monthly bills, but they’re unlikely to convince anyone but the most adamant Obama supporter that money taken by force of government isn’t really a tax.

The woman starring in the viral video is black, so there’s always the old reliable argument that any objection to paying for her cell phone use is stone cold racism. This is the predictable line being peddled at the AtlanticWire site, which contends that the video itself is not racist but that writing about it is. The writer does make a fair point by noting that much less attention has been paid to a video posted by the same journalist featuring an equally appalling white Obama supporter, who makes some wildly inaccurate claims about Mitt Romney’s tax proposals, then admits he hadn’t heard about the murder of America’s ambassador to Libya and shrugs off the news by saying “He probably had it coming,” but if the AtlanticWire truly believes that publicizing this video will help the Obama campaign we are glad to help them out with the project.

Romney’s campaign will likely avoid any mention of the video, lest it provoke the inevitable cries of racism, but having others draw attention to it could help him stave off the voting power of the now-infamous 47 percent. Here’s hoping that the public scrutiny also forces a reform of the Obamaphone program, which is a waste of the public’s money, an inducement to sloth, and has the unhappy effect of making a taxpayer feel like a sucker.

— Bud Norman